FOR THE ROAST:
4–5 pound beef boneless chuck roast (For best results, look for a piece that is well marbled with fat.)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil or rendered beef fat
1½ cups coarsely chopped onions
1½ cups coarsely chopped carrots
1½ cups coarsely chopped celery
½ cup water
FOR THE GRAVY:
¾ cup cold water
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the roast: Season the roast generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in an 8-quart deep-sided cast iron pot or Dutch oven over high heat and carefully add the meat to the pan. Sear well on all sides; transfer to a plate.
Add onions to the pan drippings and cook, stirring, until golden and translucent, about 5 minutes. Return meat to the pan along with the carrots, celery, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and adjust the heat to a simmer. Cook, turning occasionally, until meat is tender, about 4 hours. Remove from heat. Remove the meat and vegetables from the braising liquid and discard the vegetables.
For the gravy: Return the pot to high heat and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Place the water in a small bowl and gradually add the flour, whisking constantly to form a smooth slurry. Add the slurry to the boiling liquid gradually, whisking constantly until mixture thickens to gravy consistency.
Return the meat to the pan to heat through. Slice the roast and serve with the gravy over mashed potatoes. This is what Shirley calls her “Bodacious Gravy.”